In the NFC East, home of the defending Super Bowl champions, one team has made its presence known in convincing manner. Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys are for real.
Week one of the 2012 NFL season officially began Wednesday night, but it doesn't fully get underway until Sunday, September 8.
The Dallas Cowboys sit atop the NFC Eastern Division going into the first week of NFL football. One thing's for certain, no matter what happens this weekend they will still be there when it's over. Beating the defending champions New York Giants on the road may very well signify a changing of the guard in the division.
The Philadelphia Eagles travel to Cleveland to take on the Browns in what most consider a prelude to what the rest of the season holds for next Super Bowl champions. Andy Reid is playing for his job once again; expect the emotional aspect to play a large part in this game. Expect the players to rally behind their coach in what should be an easy victory for team gang-green. The key to any success for the Eagles and Andy Reid keeping his job is keeping quarterback Michael Vick healthy for the entire season.
The Washington Redskins must travel to New Orleans Sunday to battle the Saints, who got a huge break when defensive end Will Smith and linebacker Jonathan Vilma had their suspensions lifted by the league when a three-judge panel unanimously overruled league commissioner Roger Goodell's decision to suspend Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Scott Fugita, and Anthony Hargrove for the entire season. The suspension still stands for Saints head coach Sean Peyton.
The value of two future first round picks, and one second will become apparent very soon. That's what the Redskins gave up to grab Robert Griffin III for the second pick of the draft. Releasing veteran tight end Chris Cooley and signing Pierre Garcon is nothing more than a trade-off, and still leaves the team with more questions than answers to start the season.
The Cowboys made significant strides in upgrading their weakest link from last season. Signing Brandon Carr while releasing Terrence Newman was perhaps their biggest upgrade, other than drafting fellow cornerback Michael Claiborne. Eli Manning finished Wednesday night 21-32, with just 213 yards. A year ago the Giants' passing game torched Dallas' secondary, and was a major reason in their victory over the Cowboys in the last game of the season.
There were no "big plays" from the self-proclaimed, Ã©lite Eli Manning, who tasted the turf three times Wednesday, compared to only once last season, and much of that had to do with Manning not having anywhere to go with the ball.
It's becoming more clear that letting Laurent Robinson go wasn't as big a mistake as originally thought. Injuries to wide outs Dez Bryant and Miles Austin have opened the door to Kevin Ogletree, who has apparently solidified his spot as the No. 3 receiver. Tony Romo needs to trust his receivers will be where they are supposed to be. Bryant did very little to gain his quarterback's trust last season. In last season's opener, Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis stepped right in front of a confused Bryant, easily intercepting a pass from Romo. Hopefully, Jerry Jones laying down the law, so to speak, will have a positive effect on Bryant, who had 4 catches for 85 yards in Wednesday's game.
About Ogletree, Romo had this to say; "The guy who's consistently getting a good release from press coverage. The guy who is consistently where he needs to be at the right time.
"The reason he got that job is because he was doing that day in and day out, and it showed tonight his commitment that it took."
Miles Austin, when healthy, contributes much to this team's success, as his touchdown against the Giants proved. The question is can he stay healthy? Keeping Cole Beasley may have had more to do with the Cowboys not putting all their eggs in one basket, assuming Austin would play a full season. The odds are he won't. Beasley, despite his decision to walk away from the game only to return a two days later, had a productive preseason hauling in 104 yards with 7 receptions against the San Diego Chargers.
Head coach Jason Garrett says Beasley is "... very quarterback friendly." The head coach likes what he as seen from the undersized receiver, who has been compared many times to Wes Welker of the Patriots.
"Cole Beasley just has a really good feel as a inside receiver," Garrett said. "I think he showed he can get away from people. He has a good feel for finding holes."
DeMarco Murray is for real. Maybe not as real as Emmitt Smith, but he's pretty close. His 131 yards on 20 carries against the Giants was the offense's key to victory. Although the running game didn't score a touchdown, don't be too concerned. The Cowboys will need more than a paltry 5 rushing touchdowns, though, if they are to be considered contenders for a title. The Giants had 17 rushing touchdowns during the regular season, entering the playoffs with a 9-7 record.
It won't be a walk in the park for the Cowboys; nowhere in the NFL are they despised more than the NFC East. For the time being the Cowboys and their quarterback have earned a temporary reprieve from the criticism that has haunted them since Romo's trip to Cabo.